A meeting on Wednesday between President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati failed to advance the talks over the formation of a new government.
Well-informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the two officials disagreed over the government lineup and the number of ministers.
The sources noted that Mikati preferred to maintain a government of 24 ministers, and replace the minister of the Displaced, Issam Sharafeddine, and Economy Minister Amin Salam, while Aoun was pushing for adding six ministers of state to the lineup, in order to form a political cover for the government, in the event of a presidential vacuum.
In remarks following the meeting, the prime minister-designate said that discussions would be continued later.
The Presidency, for its part, noted Aoun and Mikati “tackled the various details pertaining to the formation process and would continue consultations at a later time.”
While some politicians were still relying on external and internal pressures to form a government, indirect disputes and exchange of accusations continued between the political blocs supporting Mikati on the one hand, and the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) headed by MP Gebran Bassil – Aoun’s son-in-law, on the other.
FPM MP Salim Aoun spoke about “some parties’ attempt to impose their conditions on the movement, while the Lebanon 24 website, which is affiliated with Mikati, launched an attack on Bassil, accusing him of obstructing the formation of the government.
In a radio interview, Aoun said that the Baabda meeting on Wednesday was the result of external and internal opinions that are pushing for a breakthrough in the ongoing efforts to form a government in order to avoid a vacuum.”
On the other hand, MP Michel Moussa, member of the Development and Liberation bloc headed by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, underlined the need for a new government that would handle pressing files, including the demarcation of the maritime borders and the ongoing negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
“Concessions from all sides are required today to facilitate the formation of a government…” he said in a radio conversation.